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Frost-cracking control on catchment denudation rates: Insights from in situ produced 10Be concentrations in stream sediments (Ecrins-Pelvoux massif, French Western Alps)

Abstract : The potential tectonic and climatic controls on erosion rates in the European Alps and other mountain belts remain strongly debated. We have quantified denudation rates at catchment scales using in situ produced cosmogenic nuclides (10Be) in stream sediments, sampled at the outlets of twelve variously sized (27-1072 km2) catchments of the Ecrins-Pelvoux massif (French Western Alps), with average elevations ranging from 1700 to 2800 m. Spatially-averaged denudation rates, corrected for potential shielding by Little Ice Age glaciers, vary from 0.27 ± 0.05 to 1.07 ± 0.20 mm/yr on millennial timescales. Our results exhibit a correlation (ρ2 = 0.56) between denudation rate and mean catchment elevation, in the absence of significant correlation with any other morphometric parameters (relief, slope, catchment size, hypsometry, etc). Although such variations in erosion rates have been previously linked to variations in tectonic uplift rate, the relatively small size and tectonic homogeneity of our study area exclude a strongly variable tectonic control. We interpret the increase in erosion rate with elevation as the effect of frost-controlled processes, which are strongly temperature-dependent. We use a one-dimensional heat-flow model driven by high-resolution instrumental temperature records from the study area to correlate the variability in denudation rates with the integral of the absolute temperature gradient within the frost-cracking window (‑ 3 to ‑ 8 °C), a proxy of the frost-cracking intensity, for each catchment. The results imply that the efficiency of frost cracking constitutes a major control on catchment-wide denudation rates in the study area, explaining more than half the measured variability in these rates. Our study shows that present-day denudation of the Ecrins-Pelvoux massif is controlled by a climatically driven factor and suggests that frost-cracking processes impose an important control on the post-glacial topographic evolution of mid-latitude mountain belts.
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https://hal-insu.archives-ouvertes.fr/insu-00542363
Contributor : Pascale Talour <>
Submitted on : Thursday, December 2, 2010 - 2:03:09 PM
Last modification on : Saturday, October 3, 2020 - 3:13:47 AM

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Romain Delunel, Peter A. van der Beek, Julien Carcaillet, Didier L. Bourlès, Pierre G. Valla. Frost-cracking control on catchment denudation rates: Insights from in situ produced 10Be concentrations in stream sediments (Ecrins-Pelvoux massif, French Western Alps). Earth and Planetary Science Letters, Elsevier, 2010, 293, pp.72-83. ⟨10.1016/J.EPSL.2010.02.020⟩. ⟨insu-00542363⟩

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